Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had strong words for the government of South Sudan as he condemned their continued occupation of the disputed Heglig oil fields and promised the overthrow of the ruling government’s regime.
"We say that it has turned into a disease, a disease for us and for the South Sudanese citizen,” Bashir said in a rally, speaking of the SPLM, South Sudan’s ruling party. “The main goal should be liberation from these insects and to get rid of them once and for all, God willing."
Although the territory is internationally recognized as Sudanese, South Sudan's forces entered and occupied the fields eight days ago amid ongoing controversy and debate over who has control over the border-bound oil town. Since declaring independence in July 2011, South Sudan has struggled to establish itself economically and currently holds the distinction of being one of the world’s least developed countries.
Since the occupation, however, Sudan has ramped up attacks on South Sudan with some alleging that much of the attacks have targeted civilians more often than actual military forces. Now, as fighting has already spread to areas outside of Heglig, many fear that the conflict will escalate into a full-scale war.
"These people don't understand, and we will give them the final lesson by force," Bashir told the crowd. "We will not give them an inch of our country, and whoever extends his hand on Sudan, we will cut it."
South Sudan maintains that Heglig has always been a part of its territory and, thus, its military occupation of the area is not an act of war. The fledgling nation also maintains that it is seeking peaceful methods of resolving the conflict with Sudan.
Following Bashir’s incendiary comment, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon admonished both nations and called South Sudan's seizure of the oil field an "illegal act.”
"I call on South Sudan to immediately withdraw its forces from Heglig. This is an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act," Ban told reporters. "I also call on the government of Sudan to immediately stop shelling and bombing South Sudanese territory and withdraw its forces from disputed territories."
South Sudan’s independence came as the end result of a civil war with the Sudanese government which lasted for 22 years. In light of the violent history, Ban pleaded with both nations to stop the fighting in the interest of the countries’ people.
“The last thing the people of these two countries need is another war — a war that could claim countless lives, destroy hope and ruin the prospects of peace and stability and prosperity of all Sudanese people,” he said.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)